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The Preamble to the United State’s Constitution is a small collection of text, consisting of no more than 52 words. It serves to summarize and illuminate the general purpose of the Constitution and, though it has been mostly useless in applied law, many submit that reading it historically can help identify the underlying intentions that the founding fathers harbored for the Union.
We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The History of the Preamble
At the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, the independent and scattered nature of the individual states contributed to the weakness of the nation as a whole. Former American colonists were free, but the threat of attack from England or Spain was still a viable possibility. In order to maintain the independence they had just won, representatives from each state attended the first Constitutional Convention in 1787.
The Convention’s purpose was to revise the Articles of Confederation, as it had become clear that some semblance of central government was needed if the United States was to avoid going bankrupt. The representatives divided into committees to begin drafting the Constitution. The Committee of Stile and Arrangement was tasked with the organization of the final document. Members of this committee included Alexander Hamilton, William Johnson, Rufus King, James Madison, and Gouveneur Morris. After laboring over the document for two days, they submitted the final draft of the Preamble and the Constitution to the Convention.
The Purpose of the Preamble
The Preamble and the Constitution are the product of a serious attempt to form a free and functioning government of the people. In ratifying them both, the founding fathers hoped to secure a future for the nation of the common man. While the Constitution records the laws and limitations of the three branches of government, the Preamble can be read against it to clarify the tone and spirit of the text it prefaces.